Becoming a Doctor Later in Life: UK Edition

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Written By Dr Shane McKeown

Applying for medicine can be a daunting task at any age. Not everyone decides to pursue medical school at 18 and many delay the decision to become a doctor until later in life.

Thus not everyone’s route to medical school is the same.

You may have already completed a degree at university, been working without higher education qualifications or even come from a non-scientific background.

While each of these scenarios will require a different approach in applying to medical schools, admission to medicine is possible with any of these backgrounds.

Medical School: Delayed Entry

Due to the norm of thousands of 18-year-olds leaving school and entering university life, applying as a mature student can make you feel as if you are going at it alone. Gaining a coveted space at medical school is indeed harder as a mature student, but more and more options are opening up to those who decide to undertake medical training later in life.

In fact medical schools are no longer allowed to block those over a certain age which has seen a surge in the number of applicants in their 40s and 50s. Remember you will be assessed on your drive to study medicine as well as your skill set, so do not be put off purely by your age or current qualifications.

How Best to Prepare your Medical School Application

We describe in the rest of the article the different routes of entry into medical school after 18, but there are a few core requirements to know. Academically each university will want to see strong ability in science and this of course either comes at degree or A-level standard and can also be assessed via the GAMSAT, which is an aptitude test.

Only a small number of universities accept the GAMSAT however. If you already have one science A-level, or have the time to study in the evenings to meet the minimum A-level requirements, this may be your fastest route to entry. Chemistry A-level is actually the most vital qualification with the obvious choice of biology A-level coming a close second. Check out our list of medical school A-level requirements.

Prepare yourself and your application by considering the following steps:

  1. Focus on Your Motivation: Medical schools are more interested in your motivation for studying medicine than your age. Be prepared to answer why you want to study medicine and why now.
  2. Volunteer: Volunteering in healthcare settings can be an essential aspect of your pre-medical education and a key element of your medical school application.
  3. Seek Support: Seek support from pre-medical advisors, mentors, and peers. They can provide you with guidance and support throughout the application process.
  4. Take Prerequisite Classes: If you haven’t taken the necessary prerequisite classes for medical school, take them at a community college or university.
  5. Prepare for the BMAT/UKCAT: The BMAT and UKCAT are a critical part of the medical school application process. Allocate enough time to prepare for one or both, take a course, and buy books to study on your own.
  6. Consider Studying Abroad: Studying abroad can help you broaden your horizons culturally and develop communication and understanding skills that are crucial in the medical field.
  7. Prepare for the MCAT Studying for the MCAT will give you the opportunity to apply to the American Medical School system. Bear in mind they are different exams so don’t take them together! The qualifications aren’t really transferable either, so only do it if you want to be an MD.

Will Studying Medicine fit with My Life?

This is an important question to ask yourself before going any further with the application process. Ignoring the demands and requirements of the job you will still need to dedicate 4 to 5 years of your life to a high-intensity degree program. The majority of your peers on the course will also be 18-year-olds with only a handful of mature students to socialise with.

You need to be aware if you have a family that in the later years of medical school you will be required to commute to various hospitals within a certain area. This area can vary wildly in size being relatively small for London based medical schools but covering the whole of Wales for Cardiff Medical School.

Graduate Entry Medicine

Graduate Entry Medicine seems to be the most usual route via which people study medicine at a later stage in life.

Most universities’ admissions expect applicants to have a first degree in a science subject, achieving at least an upper second class honours.

Recently, there’s been a shift towards accepting humanities degrees, but it’s best to contact the university to confirm before submitting your application.

Since candidates are expected to have a robust scientific background, Graduate Entry Medicine programs usually span a shorter four years.

It’s more feasible to apply if you hold an undergraduate or higher degree in a scientific field; however, you’re still eligible to apply for undergraduate, full-length courses lasting five years.

The following medical schools currently offer a graduate entry programme into medicine:

Bart’s and The London Queen Mary’s School



Imperial College London

King’s College London






St George’s London



Non-Scientific Backgrounds: Supporting Others with Diverse Life Experiences in Medical School

As mentioned, there’s been a shift in the UK to support those with non-scientific backgrounds, such as humanities, in pursuing a career in medicine later in life. You’ll still be expected to have a strong interest in science and articulate your motivation to become a doctor, considering your humanities background. Some individuals might have scientific qualifications that may not meet the requirements for medical school applications. If that’s the case, you can take additional exams or enrol in a foundation degree at specific universities.

Foundation courses in medicine, sometimes known as pre-clinical years, offer a supportive environment for those with diverse life experiences and are available at several UK medical schools. These institutions include:

 University of Bradford

Cardiff University

University of Dundee

Keele University

King’s College London

University of Liverpool

Manchester University

University of East Anglia

University of Nottingham

University of Sheffield

University of Southampton

Studying Medicine as a Mature Student

Some applicants who have the drive to become a mature medical student followed a path which did not include gaining a university degree or at times A-levels.

To diversify the background of medical school applicants there are a number of Access to Medicine courses available. These courses are usually held at a local college rather than a university, with the results being accepted by many medical schools as a valid qualification.

This is still a developing area in the med school application space so requirements and eligibility criteria can vary from school to school and year to year. When reviewing courses make sure to contact the course providers as information posted online can at times be out of date.

Finances can at times be a concern, however access to medicine courses are designed with accessibility in mind and reduced fees are commonplace for those eligible.

If you want to know more about applying to medical school, get in touch or leave a comment below with any questions you may have.

Revamping Life Goals: Why People Decide to Pursue a Medical Career Later in Life

Becoming a doctor later in life is a realistic option for many, and there are many reasons why someone might choose to pursue this path. You likely have more than one reason, I know I did!

It’s likely that you’ll have multiple motivations for pursuing a medical career at this stage, and it’s important to be able to articulate these clearly in your Medicine Personal Statement or Medical School Interview. Consider the following reasons if they apply to you:

  1. Different Priorities: You may have had different priorities earlier, such as a spouse or children, but now feel you’re in a better position to succeed in medicine, prompting your application.
  2. Emotional Intelligence: Research indicates that emotional intelligence increases with age, which is beneficial for doctors who need to communicate effectively with patients.
  3. Maturity: Pursuing a medical career later in life brings more maturity to the field, an advantage when working in intense and stressful environments.
  4. Desire to Help Marginalised Individuals: You might be drawn to medicine because of a calling to help others, having had direct experience of health disparities that need addressing in your personal or professional life.
  5. Fascination with Medicine: The human body is an incredible subject to study, and medical students and doctors get to examine it with the most innovative technology. Passion for medicine can grow from exposure and experience, not just from an early age.
  6. Trust and Respect: Doctors, as trusted and respected members of society, can positively influence the lives of their patients. With advancements in A.I., the human touch will become even more important in the coming years.
  7. Career Growth: The medical field continually grows, with new advancements and opportunities for career growth. You may already work in healthcare but want to unlock opportunities only accessible to medical doctors.
  8. Personal Fulfilment: Being a doctor provides not only deeply meaningful changes to patients’ lives but also immediate feedback to the practitioner. Other professions with equally important impact may lack this immediate and tangible feedback from patients.
  9. Never a Dull Moment: Physicians interact with various people and ailments every day, ensuring there’s never a dull moment in medicine. Like other emergency services, it requires skill and attention in the most demanding of circumstances.
  10. Desire to Give Back: Some people enter medicine due to a desire to give back to society and help those in need. This typically stems from a unique experience – just ensure you’re not one of those ‘my grandparent died, so now I want to be a doctor’ applicants!

What’s the maximum age you can study medicine?

There is no maximum age to study medicine in the UK.

Medical schools in the UK do not impose an upper age limit for applications to study medicine. Any ‘limit’ will be based on aptitude, motivation and likelihood of completing the course.

Mature students who are in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s are commonly accepted by medical schools. While there are no age restrictions, older applicants should consider the implications of seeking to enter the profession at their current stage of life.

If you are considering studying medicine in the UK and are worried about your age, you should not be concerned as long as you have determination!

Assuming you meet the minimum age requirement, you can apply to medical school at any age and pursue your dreams of becoming a doctor.

The Age-Old Debate: How Does Acquired Life Experience Influence Success as a Doctor?

There’s an age-old debate about whether life experience can positively influence someone’s success as a doctor.

When considering becoming a doctor, one might wonder if their acquired life experience will work to their advantage or if their age will become a hindrance in this competitive field.

Some argue that younger doctors have an edge due to their slightly increased ability to learn and retain the latest medical knowledge while others claim that having diverse life experiences can be invaluable in becoming a well-rounded doctor.

This article can’t end the debate into how one’s acquired life experience can potentially make them more successful as a doctor – needless to say maturity will always bring its advantages.

18 thoughts on “Becoming a Doctor Later in Life: UK Edition”

  1. Hello Admin
    I have an A level science from my country That born in Iran , then from 2005 until now I live in uk and have business management degree and master of international banking finance by Merit in 2017 from Greenwich university . I love to study medicine and I want to know how is it possible in age 41 . Please let me know ASAP .
    Best regards

    • Hi Abbas,

      It is certainly possible at 41, including with your type of work history.
      For the benefit of others reading this reply you will likely need to prove in some way your current interest in medicine and science as well as your ability level. There are several ways you can do this before covering the rest of the criteria. The choice is then to apply to a foundation course or directly to a medical school.
      I would say in today’s climate re: COVID and cancelled exams etc it is always worth calling universities directly to see if you can strike a personal deal.
      We will send you a more detailed reply to your email over the next few days,

      Kind regards,

      The Team @ Acrosophy

      • Thank you so much sending this reply-really helpful. Like Abbas, I want to pursue a medical career and I am 41. I have a science degree and have completed a MPH. Could you expand further on the comments regarding striking a personal deal with the universities, what do you mean exactly?

        Warm regards

        • Greetings,
          I have Biology background and i have dual master in technology, namely , MS Information technology and engineering master in computing systems.

          I have always had an edge in diagnosing diseases as i read a lot about medicine and life sciences during spare time.

          I am seeking to create embedded systems which can indicate presence of life thretening causes beforehand hence I want to pursue proper medical study . Turning 47 this year what do you think ?

  2. Hello Admin

    I am a programmer with an American bank living in UK from past 3 years,with expertise in coding.
    I am keen to study Medicine and become a good Doctor one day.
    I am soon to be 31, would really appreciate your thoughts on the ways I could achieve it.

    I have graduated with 8.5CGPA from National level college from India.

  3. I have to state that I’m thoroughly disgusted that an article claiming to apply to the UK only applies to England. As usual, three of the nations that make up the UK are completely ignored. At least say “England” instead of UK.
    I’m from Scotland and this article is all but completely useless to me.
    I’d have expected anyone with a background in science to pay more attention to details.
    This article does a huge disservice to your entire site.

  4. I am interested in doing medicine at the age of 41. I have a PhD in chemistry and have several years of experience as a lecturer in FE colleges. Do I get the funding for my medical course?

  5. I am an experienced(21 years) Registered Nursed (Dip.H.E.Nursing) UK trained and still want to study to become a medical doctor. I am a front line nurse and was wondering about the possibilities.
    I enjoy acute nursing and really want to progress with this desire to train to become a doctor. Please advise on what paths are available…..Thank you.

  6. Hello, I am 54 years old with a 1st class degree in Nursing. Would you think that there is any root to become a doctor? As a mature student and without a scientific background I don’t know where to start and what to do. Thank you in advance

  7. Hi. I have never done a science subject except at GCSE I got double BB. I am a law graduate and done my LPC at 21. I am 36 years old and I really want to practice medicine. What would be my route.

  8. Dear Admin,
    I am a post graduate nurse ( adult cardiac nursing) from India. I have worked as an RN in India, Republic of Ireland and in the UK( At JPUH, NR31 6LA) for around 13 years. Now I sm 34 years old. Another 2 more years to apply for UK PR( Currently on tier 2 VISA). Its my big dream to become a doctor as this will give me more autonomy in compassionate care. I want to become a best doctor who goes above and beyond her call fir duty. But I have no clue how to achieve it. Any help would be such a great help. I’m even happy to volunteer my service if anyone could sponsor and guide me

  9. My friend came from Bangladesh approximately 9 years ago. She started working and took some language courses [ESOL] to learn English more formally. She has no other qualifications besides that currently. She Is now 31 and wants to become a doctor. She is thinking to do her GCSE’s now. She is extremely smart and capable but understands as English is her second language, she will face more hurdles.

    Is there any hope for someone of her background? What will most likely be her next step after gaining her GCSE’s and is there another route to take which are not GCSE’s? TIA

  10. Hi. Please can you put me in touch with someone whom I can talk to or can advise me where I could apply as a 42 year old South African who wishes to pursue a career in medicine.

  11. Hi I am about to turn 40 have an undergraduate degree in Computer Science (2:1) and an MA in social work (1st) I have A Level Chemistry and Biology however not very good grades. Would I be eligible to apply please?

  12. Hi,
    I am a masters degree holder in business administration and worked as banker. I have studied science in A levels. I am 42 and want to achieve my dream of being a doctor. Kindly guide me which route I have to take

  13. Hi,
    I am a 36-year old, currently working at a Big 4 firm specialising in Risk Technology transformation programmes.

    I hold a Bachelors in Arts where my main subjects were Economics, Computer Applications & English Literature.
    I further also gained Masters in Management specialising in IT, Strategy & Finance.

    I’ve always been deeply interested in all-things neurology & psychiatry and am considering to gain a Doctor’s degree in this and change my profession, if possible. Holding a non-scientific A-levels held me back from taking up this passion seriously, but reading this article I’d like to know if I can go ahead and what would my options be.

    Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks a lot.

  14. Hi, I’m 58 next birthday I have an honours degree in social studies, a professional social work worker qualification and Ma in professional practice and a certificate in applied medical studies, I am sn approved mental health professional. I woukd want to practice in mental health. Do you think I still need to do the access course? Am I too old? I live in Swansea, but now have no ties. Where would be the best place to apply to for the 4 year course. Thank you .

  15. i am now 43 but wish to be a neurosurgeon i am currently in my first year of BA biomedical engineering but want to do medicine i have thought about doing Alevel chemistry biology and maths and have also considered an online access to HE level 3 in medicine is there anyone who could advise me the best route to take?


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